Toto Wolff, Team Principal of Mercedes, said his team is from 8-10 months behind in the development race. The main reason behind that is the early porpoising issue, which took the team a long time to address.
Furthermore, the diva character of the W13 meant that its performance was swinging from race to race. For every competitive race they had in the beginning, there was one that went terribly wrong. On occasions, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had to fight with the drivers of Haas, and Alpine. On the other hand, the 7-time World champion had a shot at victory at the Mexican Grand Prix.
What is porpoising and how it affects the Mercedes W13?
For those of you, who are unaware, the porpoising issue is specific to ground-effect cars. Since they make the most of their downforce through Venturi channels, this creates a vacuum, which sucks the car to the ground, hence the term “ground effect”.
However, this downforce can be immediately stalled, once part of the car hits the ground. As a result, too much air is trying to get pushed through the small gap of the Venturi channel. What happens after that? There is nothing that keeps the car sucked to the ground, and it lifts up in a dramatic fashion.
Within milliseconds, the car regains its downforce levels, because the floor resumes its work. Once F1 cars reach a certain speed, they start bouncing, or as is the “official term” – porpoising.
Essentially, this means that the team in Brackley has done a great job in making a super high downforce floor. On the other hand, it has to be managed, to eliminate the porpoising effect.
Before they figured out how to do it via upgrades, Mercedes had to lift their cars higher to manually reduce the efficiency of the floor. This was needed to protect both the car and the driver inside. Lewis Hamilton was particularly vocal about the dangers of porpoising for F1 pilots.
There is the notorious image of him getting out of the W13 in Baku, completely exhausted and with pain in his back.
Toto Wolff shows promise for next year
Now, the team looks more confident than ever, and it seems like all the porpoising issues have been solved. Asked about Red Bull, Wolff said: “They will carry over some of their sweetness in the car, and we’ve maybe lost eight to 10 months in terms of development because we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. So there’s definitely a challenge.
“But we’re playing the long game here, all of us. Both drivers are playing the long game, the team. The judge around the team, of performance, is not based on a single year or weekend. It’s how we have been able to win championships over the long term.”
Mercedes is currently battling for second place in the championship with Ferrari. The Italians have emerged as the team to beat at the beginning of the season. However, porpoising issues for themselves, as well as poor reliability, and other mistakes lost them a shot at the title.
On the contrary, Mercedes has been incredibly consistent throughout the year. Defying the odds and their disobedient W13, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell now have all chances of beating Ferrari to that second spot.